ON WINGS LIKE EAGLES

Like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over her young, so he spread his wings to take them up and carried them safely on his pinions. [Deuteronomy 32:11 (NLT)]

He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! [Psalm 103:5 (NLT)]

bald eagleThe eagle is mentioned more than any other bird of prey in the Bible. References are made to its swiftness of flight, ability to soar high in the air, excellent vision, the way it sets its nest in high places, and the strength of its wings. The above two verses about eagles, however, are more figurative than literal and have no scientific basis. Although mother eagles do hover over their young, they cannot carry them. A bald eagle’s lifting power is only about a third of its weight. An eaglet ready to fly is as heavy as its parents. If Mrs. Eagle tried to carry junior, they’d both fall! The second verse about being renewed like an eagle is probably connected to an ancient belief that every ten years the eagle disappeared into the sun, dove down into the sea with the setting sun, and emerged young again. There’s a similar urban myth that at 30 years of age, the eagle flies to a high mountain top and makes the difficult decision between death or the painful plucking out of all of its feathers and the destruction of its beak and talons. After waiting several months for everything to grow back again, it will be transformed and the refreshed bird will be able to live another 30 years. Not so; like the rest of us, when it’s time to grow old and die, the eagle has no choice. Like other birds, however, when the eagle molts, old worn feathers will drop and new ones will replace them.

The Bible’s figures of speech have more scientific basis when they refer to the eagle’s wings and ability to fly. Isaiah tells us that trusting in the Lord will allow us to soar on wings like eagles. An eagle’s wing span can be over seven feet and yet those powerful wings weigh less than two pounds. Nevertheless, pound for pound, an eagle’s wings are stronger than the wings of an airplane! By using the wind and updrafts that come off hills and mountains, the eagle’s wings can carry it as high as 10,000 feet and move it faster than thirty-five miles an hour. During migratory season, those wings can easily carry an eagle over 125 miles in a day.

Isaiah is correct: trusting in God truly will allow us to fly like eagles. With faith in God, we will have strength and stamina and, like the eagle, we can rise to great heights. Just as the eagle uses the wind to propel himself up and through a storm, we can use God’s power to fly through the storms of life. When we trust in the Lord, we can soar like eagles. May you soar today!

You cannot fly like an eagle with the wings of a wren. [William Henry Hudson]

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. [Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)]

For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. [Psalm 91:3-5 (NLT)]

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THE TRILEMMA

We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. [2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NLT)]

spiderwort - wild flowerIn C.S. Lewis’ children’s fantasy novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the youngest child, Lucy Pevensie, happens upon an enchanted armoire and steps into the magical world of Narnia. Upon returning, she rushes to tell her siblings of her astonishing adventure. Hearing such a tall tale and finding no concrete proof of its truth, her older siblings assume the story to be a figment of her imagination. They take their concern over her falsehood to their wise elderly uncle. He cautions them to use logic and consider Lucy’s story carefully. He points out there are only three possibilities: either she’s lying, crazy or telling the truth. After pointing out that lies are usually more plausible than Lucy’s tale, he asks if she’s lied before. The children admit she’s always been truthful. After pointing out that none of Lucy’s behavior indicates mental illness, they all agree she can’t have gone mad. He then suggests that since she’s neither a liar nor crazy, they could consider the possibility that Lucy’s story is true.

Interestingly, this is the same line of reasoning Lewis uses in what is called the “Lewis trilemma” or his “Liar, Lunatic, or Lord” argument found in Mere Christianity. Lewis uses this logical argument when people claim to believe in the existence of Jesus as a great moral teacher but not as God (which, unfortunately, many people do). Jesus talked as if He was God. He professed to be able to forgive sins and to be the only way to the Father. He claimed to have existed since the beginning of time, that He was a heavenly king who offered everlasting life, and would judge the world at the end of time. Lewis points out that we have only three choices about those fantastic claims: Jesus was either a liar who perpetrated a fraud, a madman with delusions of grandeur, or the Lord. The one thing Jesus couldn’t have been was just a principled man or an excellent teacher of morals and ethics! Jesus was either a very bad or troubled man or He was divine and exactly who He said He was!

There are many people who consider Jesus simply to be a Jewish version of Buddha or Socrates: a great man, filled with compassion and love, who had some profound and noble ideas. That whole Messiah/Son of God thing, however, just doesn’t sit well with them. We should remind them that neither Buddha nor Socrates claimed to be God; Jesus did! The Pevensie children soon learned the truth of Lucy’s claim and, hopefully, others will see the logic and truth of Jesus, as well!

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. [From “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis]

The Father and I are one. [John 10:30 (NLT)]

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. … Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. … And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. [John 14:6,11a,24b (NLT)]

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YOUR HEART’S DESIRE

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. [Psalm 37:4-5 (NLT)]

May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed. [Psalm 20:4 (NLT)]

oxeye daisy
What is it your heart desires? A photo safari in Africa or a river boat cruise along the Rhine? A paid-off mortgage or an enormous IRA? A private chef, personal trainer, maid or someone to chauffer the kids to their assorted activities? To be free of physical ailments or pain? A better paying job, longer vacation, or nicer boss? Better behaved children, a more loving spouse, or an abundance of friends? Are these the things our hearts desire or do we really desire the things that will accompany them—things like love, security, joy, serenity, a sense of well-being and peace? When we commit everything to the Lord, we will have those things, even without the luxury items, vacations, ideal situations, money or even the health.

Concentrate on counting your blessings and you’ll have little time to count anything else. [Woodrow Kroll]

Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. [Psalm 73:25 (NLT)]

The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. [Psalm 145:18-19 (NLT)]

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SEND ME

Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” [Isaiah 6:8 (NLT)]

frangipani - plumariaIn Biblical days, being a prophet was a little like being God’s press secretary. A prophet spoke for God and conveyed His message to the people. Unlike press secretaries of today, however, there would be no quibbling about the meanings of words nor would a positive spin be put on negative news. Prophets didn’t speak off-the-record, never received faulty information from their boss, and didn’t use alternative facts or half-truths. God’s prophets spoke only the unadulterated and often unpopular truth. Like today’s press secretaries, however, their messages were often more confrontational than comforting and they often were ignored. While a bearer of glad tidings is popular and welcome, prophets, as the frequent bearers of sad tidings, were not. Being God’s prophet was difficult, lonely and often dangerous.

Why anyone in their right mind would choose to be a Presidential press secretary (for any president) is beyond me. At least it offers fame, fortune and the possibility of a “tell all” best seller in the future. Why anyone would choose to be God’s prophet is even harder to understand. There was no plus side to being the one who brought a message of judgment and destruction to the people of Judah, Israel and the surrounding nations. Indicting people for their sins is no way to win a popularity contest. Nevertheless, Isaiah reported for duty when God called and took on a job that no sane person would want.

Isaiah answered God’s call because he trusted that God would provide him with the necessary words. He knew that God didn’t bring the Israelites to the edge of the Red Sea only to have them drown in the waters or be captured by the Egyptian soldiers and God didn’t part the waters only to have his people die from starvation or lack of water in the wilderness. God didn’t put Noah and the animals on that Ark only to have them never reach dry land and He didn’t send David out to meet Goliath without providing him with those five smooth stones needed for his sling. Confident that God would provide, Isaiah answered His call. Even though God warned Isaiah that most people wouldn’t even listen to him, let alone heed his words, Isaiah still said, “Here I am. Send me.”

When God calls on us, rarely will it be a request as difficult as being one of His prophets. He does, however, expect us to be His messengers. When He calls, do we answer or do we ignore the call? Do we trust Him to provide us with whatever we need or do we doubt and reject Him? When called, Isaiah said, “Here I am. Send me.” When God calls us, do we say the same?

The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away. I offered my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from mockery and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame. [Isaiah 50:4-7 (NLT)]

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I BELIEVE

Kandersteg-Lake OeschinenI passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. [1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NLT)]

When visiting our mountain church last year, we sang one of Hillsong United’s hits: This I Believe (The Creed). I don’t think I’ve ever been more enthusiastic when declaring my faith in our triune God and it was a joy to sing out my belief. Recitation of the creeds is usually not a part of that church’s worship service and it was wonderful to have the whole congregation join in loudly singing a united statement of our faith.

I believe in life eternal; I believe in the virgin birth.
I believe in the saints’ communion And in Your holy Church.
I believe in the resurrection When Jesus comes again,
For I believe, in the name of Jesus. …
I believe in God our Father. I believe in Christ the Son.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, Our God is three in one.
I believe in the resurrection – That we will rise again,
For I believe in the name of Jesus.
[“This I Believe (The Creed)” by Hillsong United]

The Nicene and Apostle’s Creeds are the most universally accepted and recognized statements of the Christian faith and many of us regularly recite one of these creeds during worship. Unfortunately, we may say the same words so frequently that it’s easy to have them roll off our tongues without engaging our brains. Last month, during the Father’s Day service, our pastor exchanged the traditional Apostle’s Creed with a paraphrased version. Using different words to say essentially the same thing made me think about what I actually was declaring. That creed’s source is unknown, it isn’t an official part of our church’s doctrine or worship service, and its words aren’t over 1600 years old as are those in the traditional creeds. Nevertheless, its words are a beautiful interpretation of those ancient statements of faith.

We believe in God, the one who comes before us and goes behind us, creating life and opportunities to love and care for the world. We believe in Jesus Christ who walks with us into real life each day. He is God, yet human like us and experienced all life’s joys and pains and challenges like we do. But his love is so great that not sin nor suffering nor even death could stop it. Today the love of Jesus lives and continues to bring new life to the world. We believe in the Holy Spirit who comes like the wind and blows in and through us to bring God’s power and light to all the world. The Spirit breathes life into us, the body of Christ we call the church, and enables us to follow the way of Christ. We believe in God, who goes before and behind, with, in, and through us, bringing hope and life and newness to the world. Amen [Source Unknown]

What is it you believe? We’re told to be ready to explain why we have the hope we have and our Christian creeds are a good place to start. As we’ve seen, they can be simplified and paraphrased. They answer the simple question, “What does it mean to be a Christian?”

Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. [1 Peter 3:15 (NLT)]

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MARRIAGE VOWS

For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth. [Isaiah 54:5 (NLT)]

But you have been unfaithful to me, you people of Israel! You have been like a faithless wife who leaves her husband. I, the Lord, have spoken. [Jeremiah 3:20 (NLT)]

JUST MARRIEDThroughout the Bible, marriage is often used as a metaphor for man’s relationship with God. His covenant with Israel is seen as a form of marriage, their unfaithfulness as adultery, and their alienation from God as divorce. The book of Hosea is a story of a prophet with an unfaithful wife that parallels God’s relationship with his unfaithful people. Some scholars say the entire Song of Songs is an allegory of God’s love for Israel or the church. In the New Testament, John the Baptist describes the Messiah as a bridegroom and Jesus refers to himself as the groom in wedding parables. Marriage was ordained by God and the marital bond illustrates God’s relationship with His people.

In light of the many Biblical references to our spiritual marriage, I started to evaluate how I’ve done keeping my wedding vows with God. When a bride, I promised to love, comfort and honor my husband and to forsake all others, keeping myself only for him as long as I lived. I took him for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, and to love and cherish until we were parted by death.

Although I’ve done a pretty good job of doing all that I promised to my husband, I’ve not done so well with my God. In times of health, wealth and contentment, I often forgot who made those good times possible. Moreover, I was often distant or angry with God in times of sickness, scarcity and sorrow. I’m not sure I even forsook all others for Him. I followed my peers, often took the easy rather than right routes, and listened to the enemy when I should have listened to Him. Like a mistress or prostitute, I seemed to love Him for his gifts and often came to Him only because I wanted something. While I can’t comfort our Almighty God, I’ve probably caused Him a fair amount of discomfort and grief. Fortunately, there was nothing about obedience in my wedding vows because obedience hasn’t been my strong suit with God. While I haven’t failed completely as a spiritual wife, I haven’t fully kept our covenant relationship.

On His part, God, like the perfect husband, has been faithful and loved me in all circumstances. Knowing my every fault, He’s seen me at my worst but continued to love me. If I stopped believing in Him, He never stopped believing in me. If I rejected him, He never rejected me. No matter how unfaithful I have been, He has remained faithful to me. He’s been loving and true to me at my sickest, poorest, and most contemptible. He gave me unconditional love when my love often depended on circumstances. God asked Hosea to buy back his adulterous wife and continue to love her. God has redeemed me, as well. The gift of His only Son to save my sorry soul is evidence of that. As Hosea welcomed back Gomer, so God welcomes me.

At landmark anniversaries, people often remake their wedding vows. Our vows to God need to be retaken not just every ten years but every day. Merciful God, thank you for your unconditional and lavish love. Forgive us for being less than you deserve and thank you for giving us more than we could ever desire. In all circumstances, may we love, honor, cherish and obey you, now and forever.

Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his bride. Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem, just as a young man commits himself to his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride. [Isaiah 62:4-5 (NLT)]

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